Watch Pioneers of Television

Pioneers of Television is an American documentary series chronicling the people, both in front and behind the cameras, who helped nurture television in its earlier days. The program airs in the United States on the networks that make up the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

Three seasons of Pioneers of Television have aired since its premiere in 2008. Each season offers four episodes, running 60 minutes long, and focuses on an certain piece of television's history. The original set of Pioneers of Television episodes normally runs from mid-January to the second week of February.

In the first season, the series examined variety and comedy elements of TV. The debut episode, Late Night, looked at the three men who pioneered the late night talk show - Steve Allen, Jack Paar, and Johnny Carson -- and how they influenced the hosts of the current generation. The next episode, Sitcoms, drilled down to focus on five situation comedies that changed the television landscape. These included I Love Lucy, Make Room for Daddy, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show.

The third episode of the first season examined influential variety shows of the 1950s and 60s like the popular Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater and The Carol Burnett Show to the irreverent and controversial Laugh-In and The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour. The last installment in the first season of Pioneers of Television provided viewers with a history of game shows, including the scandals of the 1950s.

The second season of Pioneers of Television, airing in 2011, looked at several genres that exploded and waned throughout the industry's history. An episode on science fiction profiled creators Gene Roddenberry, Irwin Allen, and Rod Sterling as well as sci-fi actors like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. The episode titled Westerns recalled pioneering series like Gunsmoke, Daniel Boone, Maverick, and The Big Valley, while the Crime Dramas installment looked as producers Jack Webb and Bruce Geller and the actors who performed on their shows. The last episode of the second season reviewed the long history of local children's television shows.

The third season of Pioneers of Television, which debuted in January of 2013 focuses on funny ladies of TV, primetime soap operas, superheroes, and the concept of the miniseries.

PBS
4 Seasons, 18 Episodes
January 2, 2008
Documentary & Biography
8.0/10
Cast: Dick Van Dyke, Phyllis Diller, Florence Henderson, Betty White
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Pioneers of Television Full Episode Guide

  • Celebrating the life of Robin Williams with interviews, tributes and clips from his career.

  • A behind-the-scenes look at some of America's top stand-up comedians.

  • Showcasing television's history of people with color.

  • Television's long history of shows with doctors and nurses shows no signs of letting up.

  • Jerry Seinfeld, Roseanne Barr and Ray Romano discuss the transition of stand-up comedians into sitcoms.

  • Remembering Carol Burnett's television career. Plus, funny ladies of yesteryear.

  • This episode targets miniseries, including "Rich Man, Poor Man," "Roots," and "The Thorn Birds."

  • Remembering the superhero TV shows of bygone eras including Superman, Batman, and the Incredibles.

  • The third season opens with the funny women of Hollywood, including stand-ups Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers, and sitcom stars Lucille Ball, Marla Gibbs, Mary Tyler Moore and Betty White. Also: Carol Burnett shares stories of her variety show. Included: remarks from Margaret Cho and Tina Fey.

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